Sunday, September 2, 2012

Smoke and Mirrors: Suite Enough

And so we come to the final section (Parts 4 and 5) of Suite Mystic, my misbegotten, long a-growin', tired-of-the-runnin' attempt to capture in a multi-part poem some of the complexities of US, our perceptions, misconceptions, and ill-conceived
lives--nostalgia, memory, and small-t truth; Southern blunders and manners, Yankee sneers and blinders, racism South and North--and still wrap it all in a version of poetic language both gruff and lovely. Did I fail (again), or have I at last achieved some degree of success? Like it, hate it, I'd appreciate your comments...

4. Some Blues

Work song’s for daytime, sugar, blues come on at night
Work song till sundown, baby, blues run all the night
I jus’ can’t figure out why you never treat me right

Tobacca leaves low an’ green, corn stand yella’ an’ tall
Tobacca barn stackin’ green, corn still yella’ an’ tall
Blackstrap molasses make the sweetes’ sugar of all

See brown bug in the cotton, there’s trouble in the fields
Boll weevil in the cotton, Lord, be trouble in the fields
Folks can’t chop no squares when they force’ to kneel

You scorn me an’ mistreat me, but I am with you still
Scorn me an’ mistreat me, you know I’m with you still
Ain’t but the one road… goin’ up this hill

5. Smoke

And suddenly I am eleven, huddled
On the hardpack dirt floor of the smokehouse,
Hiding out in hickory-scented black, odd shapes
Dangling from the rafters--ribs and hams, sides
Of bacon, strings of hot links… and darker
Meat: fresh-bled pigs, huge slabs of beef,
Intestine-wrapped remains, fat-melt spilling
Down home-butchery gone hog wild.

Outside, the air shimmers, night scrubbed
From the landings, morning bleached pearl-white,
Rinsed clean, wrung and hung out... yet limp
Already, sweat-soaked even as it dries.
Tin tub, washboard, and wringer steam.
Falling-water light splashes workbench
Stains, down plump brown hens pecking
Grit in the shadow of the chopping block.

But I am safe in darkness, freed from my place
In the tobacco barn’s black crew—lone white boy
Sorting, stacking, grading; hanging harsh
Leaves for curing and blending; carcasses
Strung-up, whispering a violent story
I can’t redeem and cannot ignore…
The sun burns long. The days hum down.
The country kin accept me. But I am

The Yankee city kid come calling; misplaced,
Weighed down by choices I am pressed
To make. We gather on porches, in shade,
To talk and eat and remember a gracious
Past… the Mansion, yes, its crinolined belles,
Gallant beaux, quartered slaves defining
The edge of Southern elegance. Nothing
Mean-spirited is said; my kinfolk are good

Manners personified. Yet the smokehouse
Draws me in. No dissembling here
Among shapes I nearly see… blood fresh,
Black complete, curative ashes smoldering…
And still spreading hickory fumes
In the darkness of memory now,
A haze of blood and smoke and ash
Obscuring the Mystic I lost.

* * * * *
Next time, a tale of Tommy and Who knows what else... oh, so you wanna Bette?

No comments: